CROATIA: Ramparts surround Dubrovnik Old Town nestled on the pretty Dalmatian coastline
JENNY SELWAY relaxes among the smart set in the historic Croatian city that is both chic and rich in culture
EVERYONE agrees that Dubrovnik
is a beautiful city but it's not just its golden walls, its rosy rooftops, the lush hillsides that surround it or a glimpse of the shimmering Adriatic as you turn a corner.
It's all those things of course but it's also about the women. Click here now for amazing offers to Dubrovnik!
Goodness, Croatian women are gorgeous: tall, with dangerous cheekbones, flashing eyes and, more often than not, raven hair whipping you in the face as they stride past.
The one in the white maxi dress could have been in a Sixties Hammer Horror movie: stunning, deadly and about to bite some unwary Englishman on the neck. My husband would have been more than happy to offer his services.
It's also a glamorous city, being relaxed, rich and cultured with a lively summer arts festival. For some reason I'd expected something a little more uncouth and rough around the edges.
Yet sitting in Gil's Cuisine & Pop Lounge on a warm evening looking over the harbour in the heart of the Old Town felt pretty ritzy. Set on the city walls, the outdoor bar/restaurant curves around the ramparts, all cushions, silk swagging and polished decking with trees growing through it. Not only does it look good it also has a wine cellar which makes booze buffs go all quiet and reverential.
Dubrovnik's smart set was out for the night, the siren in the white dress sipping a Martini cocktail.
We were staying outside the city, 10 minutes along the coast at the newly opened Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Dubrovnik Sun Gardens. The rooms are so gorgeous I wanted to barricade myself in and refuse to leave, ever. Light and white with touches of lime and turquoise, the balcony opened out on to the Adriatic.
What's more you could stand in the waterfall shower and look out to sea. Fabulous.
The hotel is a brilliantly designed 369-room complex with pools, upmarket shops, restaurants, nightclubs, a sports centre and a spa.
Even though the hotel was fully occupied it still appeared peaceful and spacious. Want incredible deals to Dubrovnik? Click here now...
On our first evening we ate on the terrace in the hotel's Cilantro Lounge Bar with its eastern Mediterranean menu. We sampled squid carpaccio (even if you think you hate squid this was sublime), and shared plates of seafood tapas and a wonderful, fruity lamb curry.
The following day we drove back into Dubrovnik. A cocktail in a trendy bar is one thing but this is a city brimming with history.
It's a Unesco World Heritage site which simply demands to be explored. Indeed, so sophisticated was this city that in the 15th century every house had to be connected to a centralised sewage system. There were all sorts of strict planning laws then and there's plenty more today.
For instance, though many of the shops sell the usual tourist tat you would never know it. The names on the shops are barely visible and there are no advertising hoardings so the elegant marble streets retain their dignity and beauty.
Dubrovnik has been battered by bloody wars and shattered by earthquakes. The most recent conflict following the break-up of Yugoslavia is, by and large, something the Croats would rather not talk about.
You can still observe evidence of the extensive shelling during the siege of 1991 etched in the pavements and walls but all else has been impeccably restored.
It's hard to imagine such brutality in this sunny city with its well-dressed people and cruise ships in the harbour. We gazed down on this benign scene as we enjoyed the city wall walk, some 1.2miles of ramparts and sturdy stone fortification, offering glimpses of Italianate terracotta roofs, charming terraces and white yachts cutting through the blue waters.
The seas around the Dalmatian Coast are studded with lush islands. A ferry will take you to one of the Elaphiti Islands, just three of which, Kolocep, Lopud and -ipan, are inhabited.
"Dubrovnik is very small, " a young Croat told me with a dissatisfied sigh.
Like all young people who live in a place of picture-postcard beauty he saw its shortcomings.
To us, though, this was its perfection. THE KNOWLEDGE: Thomson (0871 2315595/www.thomson.co.uk) offers seven nights at the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa (00800 333 333/ www.radissonblu.com) from £499pp (two sharing), B&B. Price includes return flights from Gatwick to Dubrovnik and transfers. Croatian National Tourist Board: 0208 563 7979/ www.croatia.hr